3 March 2014

Fast


I read a quote today that resonated with me in no small measure.  

"I am forever seeking a balance in our family life between activity and stillness, sound and silence, society and solitude. For now, I still have a measure of control over the tenor of my children's days, but as the actual amount of time we spend alone together inevitably shrinks, maintaining this balance becomes more important--and more challenging."  (Katrina Kenison)

While I strive for this balance too, it's been more of a challenge for me to encourage quiet time.  More so with three babes.  Children have so much energy to spend.  My second has perpetual ants in her pants.  (She can be found running or hopping around the house throughout the day.)  What's more, they feed off each other.  Oh, how they feed!  Moods, mannerisms and verbiage spread like wildfire, especially when one gets a case of the crazies.  What inevitably happens is things get too wild, too loud and too much for mama.  I struggle so much trying to stay in control and not lose my temper.  Sadly, I fail far too often.  

Thankfully, fasting always brings with it a greater measure of self control.  Maybe from all the discipline and self-denial required?  I don't know.  It's a blessing I look forward too.  Yes, I look forward to this Lent.  

I don't think I will be around here very much, if at all for the next little while.  A blessed Fast to you!  




PS - Kids are still sick this week, so today we began a spring mural together.  I found it quite amusing that my eldest, being obsessed with dinosaurs (and really all things ferocious), wanted to have his t-rex eat a crab (mama helped with the execution).  A fitting segue to Lent... even dinosaurs fast.  :o)


18 February 2014

Tinkering



My babies are in bed, as I should be too, but instead I am tinkering away at another hat.  Tis the year of hats.  I am so happy though to have the desire, enthusiasm and energy to be making them.  After being pregnant and going through a bit of a funk, it is not something I take for granted anymore.  



We had a lovely weekend at the Dormition monastery.  I would love so much to bottle up the immense help and benefit we receive there to have  it at my disposal for those days... those gray , overcast days.  I'm sure I could live there.  I dream of living there!  Even my children hate leaving and beg to stay.  I see them enveloped in such spiritual warmth and wholesome activity that I am at peace.  They themselves are quieted inside and we all come back with a greater inner stillness.  



And as I look around me and take stock - the mountain of laundry that needs folding, the floors that need washing, the dishes that need washing - I come back to earth zealously with a purpose!  There are things that need doing, my friends!  And I am up for the job, though I work on a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race policy.  I actually enjoy being profitably busy without the stress of deadlines.  After all, we have managed, J and I, to finish dinner for tonight and Thursday!  There is creamy chicken and broccoli, and prime rib roast (still roasting in the oven) with potatoes and salad.  Thank God.  When meals are done, I am almost always stress-free.

Wishing you a stress-free week too!  




CREAMY CHICKEN & BROCCOLI BÉCHAMEL

This is my own improvised recipe and I think of it as a kind of blank slate, so feel free to tweak it according to your own tastes. 

4-5 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cubed
1 package frozen broccoli (I also use the broccoli + cauliflower mix)

BÉCHAMEL SAUCE:

3 Tbsp butter
1 3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup flour
salt and pepper, to taste
3 tsp dried sweet basil

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt butter in medium saucepan.  Add flour and whisk until smooth.  Cook for 2 minutes on medium heat whisking constantly.  Whisk in milk until smooth and cook on high, whisking constantly until the sauce thickens.  Remove from heat.  Add basil and salt and pepper to taste.  

Place chicken and broccoli in a large casserole dish.  Pour béchamel sauce overtop, toss to combine and cover casserole with aluminum foil.  Bake until chicken is cooked through.  


10 February 2014

A smattering of Monday




It's Monday.  I'd rather prefer Friday, but I'll take it!   I finished my owl hat.  It's a nice change to be crossing things off my list instead of adding them on.  But then again, adding is so much fun...





J and I made a big batch of play-dough this morning.  It's been a while.  The kids love anything to do with dough.  I haven't made play-dough in so long because we make savoury dough so often - they get their fix while helping me bake in the kitchen.  (And I get two birds with one stone!)  But today we did play-dough.

My only lament is the state my floors.  Play-dough and carpets are not fun to clean.

Speaking of cleaning, I wonder sometimes how other people clean their homes.  Is there a routine involved, or it's just a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants affair?  I don't know if it's the same for everyone, but during most weeks, a mood will strike me.  It's a sort of nesting instinct minus the pregnancy.  It's a primal "I MUST clean" feeling.  I cannot rest or eat or make anything until it is appeased.  There is no logic involved.  Just me and the mop.  (Or sponge.)  And that is how my house gets cleaned!  Well, almost.  I try to do a chore a day so that it's not a huge affair come the weekend.  Usually it works.  Sometimes it doesn't.

But that's another story.

6 February 2014

Tidbits for the soul

 I came into the room this morning and this is what I saw.  J was playing dress-up with S.  (Oh ya, ya gotta love those two holes she's put in the toes of that sleeper, eh?)  Ya, they were having a ball together... no pun intended.  Adorable!



We've been having some pretty bad winter storms this past while.  It is beautiful though afterwards.  The trees are veritably enrobed in snow and there's a pristine quietness in the air.  Here's a view from our balcony of the last storm to hit.  


 This is the fox mask I made for M.  A little primitive and done on the fly - I had a dozen owl masks to finish people!  Thankfully, my son does not seem to mind.  He's now asking for a pirate patch and a wolf mask.  I can't win with that kid.  As much as I'd love to sit around all day making things (hello, dream come true!), there is work that needs attending.  For instance, dishes do not wash themselves.  And last I checked, dinner has never spontaneously made itself.  Don't even get me started on the laundry.  Laundry actually does move by itself.  It moves upwards that is, at an exponential rate.  

So, I think I'll put mask-making on the back burner for the time being.  




I was forced to make a couple peg people this evening though.  The kids wanted to make their own in fact.  So I let them.  They went to town and covered their pieces from top to bottom in paint.  Then Mom was solicited to "fix" them.  "Princess" and "soldier" were my orders.  So I spent my after-hours making these cuties.  I'm sure they'll both love theirs.  Too much so that I'm bound to be bombarded by orders for more.  Especially M.  He'll want a whole battalion of soldiers so they can have a war.  (Is it me, or are all boys like this?)

Anyhow, that's the story of why the stuffed grape leaves never got done.  *sigh*


I have been reading an excellent book that I just have to pass along.  It's called: Hold Onto Your Kids, by Gordon Neufeld.  Great read for parents, teachers, caregivers and basically anyone who works or deals with children.  Definitely changed my perspective on a few things for sure.  And I'm pretty sure most public libraries carry it.  At least that's what I hear.  (And that's where this baby came from too!)

So, that's me for now.  A bit of this and that in the goings on department.  

A few more tidbits to share...

  • This shop is dangerous.  I especially love those seasonal craft boxes.  What a great idea!  I should make up a few for the kids... especially with all the spare time I have.  *sigh*
  • I'm dying to get a hold of this book.  A sweet little story for kiddies, a lovely collection of patterns for mama.  
  • M and J have been really into owls, amongst other things, this past little while.  I was trolling around etsy and found these little darlings.  I wish I knew how to felt.  One day...  (As if my to do list needs any lengthening.)    
  • While I'm on the topic of animals, I've been wanting to crochet a hedgehog ever since I saw one on one of my favourite sites.  This little critter is by far the cutest I've seen, yes?  
  • As if I'm not "hatted" out, my son has requested this furry friend.  Can't blame him, but yeesh!  
  • These are the slippers my kids dream of.  Happily, this is a dream I can make come true!  Hurray for dreams and hurray for more yarn projects!  

3 February 2014

A little older, a little wiser


We've been keeping busy these past few weeks with some projects.  They've been very absorbing - too much so to put down.  

The kids are really into masks, especially M.  He loves playing pretend and a mask makes it that much better!  I made a fox mask for him, and then we made a whole bunch of owl masks.  They were so much fun to make.  I think designing them is my favourite part.  And the help along the way from various family members (ie: babysitting and cutting felt) made them easy to finish.  

Can I just say it out loud?  I love making things!  Ok, I'm done.



Today my little girl turns 3.  My sweet little one.  Three years ago we held her tiny self in our arms for the first time and we fell in love.  She is her father's daughter.  The first to kiss him in the mornings; the first to run to him when he comes from work; his first playmate and confidant.  She brings sunshine and curls to our lives.  Our girl.  

She wanted a pink owl cake.  Pink owl cake it is.  I should take a cake decorating class.  One day my decorating skills (or lack thereof) will be inadequate for their tastes.  Thankfully, pleasing a 3 year old is easy.  A pink cake, some jello, maybe throw in a tiara and poof.  Happiness!  



Hoping that as she grows ever older, her happiness will not depend on grandeur, but on the simple.  Happy Monday to you!  


20 January 2014

A fierce mama general



The last thing I think of as I'm falling asleep at night is: what shall we have for dinner tomorrow?  It is the first and last question to assault me each day.  I don't know if it's the same for everyone, but I can't rest until I've settled on a solution.  It doesn't have to be fancy (more often it's not).  It doesn't have to be time consuming (it almost never is).  But it needs a somewhat nutritiously satisfying answer.



I should clarify that I actually don't lose sleep over this.  (Precious little in this world is important enough to make me lose sleep over, and what is enough usually includes some form of a sick/teething child.)  No sir, dinner doesn't qualify.  Here is how it happens.  The thought pops into my head just as I start to zone out.  I struggle for a minute to stay conscious enough to think of a reply.  It usually only takes a minute - long enough to run through an improvised list of possibilities.  I pick one.  I do a mental jig.  Then, I'm out.  Like a light.  Goodnight world.

But let me tell you, when I have my answer, I feel like I've conquered a battle.  I am General Mama and I have vanquished my enemies!  Armed with a menu of sorts, I can loosely plan the day, sally forth into the kitchen and create.  The kids enjoy being part of this creating process too.  I think having M at home to recover a little more has been so good for him.  Besides resting well, he has taken up all kinds of domestic hobbies like peeling carrots and potatoes, vacuuming, mopping floors and turning over the laundry.  (He likes to watch new loads start their sudsy dance in the washer.)  It's as though he feels more connected to home and the rhythm of life here.  And that gives us both an inner peace and contentment.  



I have finished S's hat and gone and started another.  An owl hat.  A delicious blue owly hat.  I suspect it'll be for my little boy.  But, as I keep trying to convince myself, it seems a little silly to make him another hat right now.  He already has 3.  He loves to play pretend though.  We are often a family of lions, or dinosaurs, or rhinos... whatever the prince's fancy dictates.  I am always the mommy animal.  I am a fierce mommy.  A general of my troops.  We sally forth to do battle with numerous foes - crocodiles, bears, or lego trucks.

When they get tired of fighting, we retreat to our den - an elaborately constructed fort under the dining room table.  Here we rest and eat our well-earned snack.  Preferably something crunchy like raw veggies and hummus, or crackers and cheese.  We will also take cashews and apple slices, thank you very much.  The perfect way to end a play.

And the perfect way to end this post would be to share a favourite dinner recipe.  It's a very simple dish - a type of stew I guess.  Whatever.  My kids adore it and that is good enough for me.  We eat it with rice.  It takes only a few minutes to set up and meets my nutritional standards.  You can even substitute lima beans for the peas.  I feed it to little S, pureed up of course.  She loves it.  I hope you do too!

PEA STEW WITH BEEF CHUNKS

1 bag (750g) frozen sweet peas (or 500g dried lima beans)
1 kg beef tenderloin, cubed
1 large onion
3 Tbsp tomato paste
salt, to taste
3-4 Tbsp sunflower oil
2 cups water

Dice onion roughly.  Fry in sunflower oil until onion is translucent.  Add beef chunks and saute until fully browned.  Add water and peas.  (If using lima beans instead, boil in water until tender before adding to beef.)  Cook on high until boiling.  Turn heat down, cover and cook until peas are tender and beef is cooked through.  (Can add more water if desired.)  Add tomato paste and salt.  Serve hot with rice.


PS - As of this past week, I am working on a book.  Not writing, reading.  It's called The Theology of Illness by Jean-Claude Larchet.  (Yes, I picked it on purpose after this month's convalescence.)  I have found it rather comforting - it really has been such a perfect book.  I highly recommend it.


16 January 2014

Starting and finishing



I've been working on a hat for S.  It's a lovely soft gray wool twined with white.  I just need to finish the ears.  Something I enjoy doing at night after the kids are all in bed.  The time I should be using to wash my floors.  Oh well.  Clean floors will have to wait one more day.  



Speaking of things to finish, atayef (those thin little stuffed Arabic pancakes) were on my to do list for a few years.  We had them a few times while we were in Lebanon, but I never got the chance to make them until now.  They are so decadent when paired with real whipped cream.  I didn't have crushed pistachios to sprinkle on them, but they dress up well with berries or even a dollop of jam too, though now I wonder if I'm being too un-traditional.  I used this recipe and it was very helpful.  I did find that I needed quite a bit less water however.  I suggest starting with 2 cups of water (instead of 3) and working your way up slowly as needed.  I may also have used slightly less yeast, but I can't remember. 

Anyhow, if you love pancakes, you'll be hooked on these!  They are perfect for entertaining - say an elegant bite-sized teatime treat.  The syrup is nice touch too.  Adds a little pizzazz when drizzled on top or used as a dip.  (My kids are fans of dipping.)  

And before I sign off, here are a few little projects and lovelies to share.

  • This is a lovely shop.  The animal designs are especially nice.  
  • I'm all about organizing and this is beautiful!
  • This blanket is gorgeous and wouldn't take half the time to finish that knitting or crocheting would require.  An excellent idea for next Christmas?  That or I'm going to have to try quilting.  I am dying to make one for each of the kids, and I think I'd start with something like this.
  • I have promised to make J a messenger bag like her brother.  Which means I am on the lookout for a good pattern.  I like this one, likely in a smaller size.
  • And because I haven't had enough of making dresses for my girls, this pattern and this pattern are just begging to be started.